It's that time of the year again, where everyone sits around and talks about how the year moved so fast and how it feels like only yesterday we were talking about 2014 ending so abruptly. This year has been a great year in my books; we have had some amazing machinery grace the pages of NZ Performance Car over the past 12 issues, and it's fair to say our little country continues to produce world-class cars. Which makes it hard for me to pick my favourites, and while I get hyped on nearly all the cars that make it into print, there are a few standouts of the year for me — and here they are.
Ken Block's HOONICORN Mustang: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 220
So technically this car was built, and revealed, in 2014, but I can sneak it in here as we had it in NZ Performance Car, or more specifically the build of it, in early 2015. To me the HOONICORN is one of the coolest cars on the planet; its concept, execution, and ability to fry tyres are second to none. TBH I never saw a car of this magnitude coming, built just for one 12-minute video. A full custom chassis, custom bodywork, 845hp Roush V8, and a custom all-wheel drive system. I mean, come on Ken, talk about raising the bar! The fact that Kiwis were behind building the ’65 Mustang makes it that much sweeter.
Just in case you haven't seen it, here is the video. But even if you have, it's well worth the rewatch.
Zetec-powered Ford Escort: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 221
James Cristie's Escort really served as a reminder to not judge a book by its cover. A relatively unassuming car from the exterior (not saying that's a bad thing), it wasn't until I popped the bonnet to reveal an ITB-equipped 2.1-litre Zetec four-cylinder with a beautiful set of headers, that I really took notice. I don't know about you, but I doubt I will ever get sick of looking at an amazing N/A engine bay, something us Kiwis seem to do better than most.
RADBUL turbo 26B MX-5: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 222
This one is a bit of a no-brainer, as it had to be the most-anticipated build of 2015, and when it finally dropped, no one was disappointed. Having seen all of Mike's previous builds up close, nothing came close to the MX-5 in terms of hardcore race hardware. The PPRE team certainly out did themselves on this one, I'm yet to see or hear this thing in anger, but the first opportunity I have I'm there.
Sharknose Toyota Mark II: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 223
It takes a brave young man to build such an outlandish and low street car that you simply can't drive anywhere, but Michael MacNaughtan's Fukuoka-style Mark II sharknose is exactly that. It was the small details of this car that really set it apart, this wasn't simply a New Zealand reimagining of a Japanese style, it was authentic, down to the smallest detail.
Beams-powered Toyota KE70: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 223
Dan Yeoman's KE70 was a build that I had keenly followed since meeting Dan, some seven years earlier. It's one of those builds that you simply don't realize how much custom work has gone into it, and that's half the charm. From the howling 3SGE in the engine bay, to the body work, to the five sets of custom wheels, this is one car that would be more than welcome in my shed.
Bagged Toyota Crown coupe: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 224
Probably the car of 2015, for me, would have to be David Authur's Crown coupe. This thing, might not be fast, but it sure is rad. There aren't many Japanese cars that can pull off airbags that well, but the very American/low-rider vibe, helped along by Weld Racing Wheels, dual antennas, and the six-cylinder bark nailed it for me. This car looks like it came straight out of Mooneyes in Japan, all that is missing is the plaque in the rear window.
1JZ-powered Volvo brick: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 225
Coming all the way from Australia, Zak Denam's 1JZ-powered Volvo 240 Estate is the kind of car that has me still fizzing over grass-roots drifting some 13 years after discovering the sport. The quality fabrication aside, what I think is the 240's best attribute, is the fact you can roll up to any track day, roll it off the trailer, and it will be the only one like it in the pits. To me, that's worth more than any S chassis, no matter how radical it may be.
The little KE30 that could: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 227
Banging off the limiter at 10,000rpm as we negotiate Taupo's reverse track, this is why Sean Jone's KE30 excites me. The five laps that I rode with Sean were some of the best laps I have been in this year. Why? Because this car's performance surprised me in a very big way. The grip, the control, and the noise — well, the noise I did expect (Kiwi RE 13BPP) — but the others are certainly not what I was expecting, it certainly punches well above its weight.
Ultra Box BMW 2002: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 228
As part of Hiroshima's Bad Quality crew, the Ultra Box BMW 2002, is anything but. Although you can't see in the above picture, the interior of this thing is what really set it apart. Looking like a cross between the cigar lounge and a Group 5 racer, the Ultra Box team absolutely nailed it. This is another build where the attention to detail is the crowning glory.
SR20 GANG AE86: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 228
The humble Toyota AE86, has been a favourite of mine for a very long time, there is just something about the shape, especially when running Runfree and J Blood components. Matt Heslin's example really had me frothing with the SMS cage custom painted in Mars gold flake, and that rocker cover, which was a very polarizing part of the build for most people. To quote myself from the article, this has all the right bits in all the right places.
Peter Schrey's 3SGE tube-framed Toyota Starlet: NZ Performance Car Issue No. 230
This is one that none of you will have seen yet, as this magazine is on sale next week, but we wanted to end the year on a bang! As you might have guessed, I love race cars, and ones that are constructed at home in the shed, and to this level, are all that much better. Peter Schrey has been working at his tube-framed, 3SGE-powered Starlet for more than 12 years, and just about every component he has made and developed himself. No time for fancy paint, as it's continually under the knife being reworked and refined. Just wait until you see the chassis work!
Well that's it from me, I hope you all have a safe holiday break and I will see you all in 2016 — refreshed and ready to bring you all another 12 issues of New Zealand Performance Car magazine.